Don’t launch your website without solving these

Seeing the same mistakes made again and again makes Gareth sad.

subtitle: It’s 2011, we can fix it

Sometimes it feels like we’re still failing to solve the basic problems time after time. Can I present my first list of things we really shouldn’t be launching without solving.

Further suggestions welcome.


  • Be respectful of users who will accept they get content free because of it, but don’t be silly (e.g. don’t show me adverts then tell me I’m geo-blocked from the actual content)


  • Don’t auto play any video unless the page is a destination page for audio/video
  • Make decent videos: owning Final Cut is not enough to make you a producer
  • Don’t play background music, and if you do remember if I press mute between sessions

Authentication & Registration

  • Let me skip registration until I really need to
  • Allow people to login with google/yahoo/facebook accounts. Do not make me create a full account and connect it to facebook/google, make an account with that identifier and ask for the bare minimum extra.
  • Don’t ask for more permissions than you need from Facebook and don’t ever post to my wall without permission
  • If someone needs to authenticate, take them to where they were and not the home page
  • Never store plaintext passwords (unbelievable this still deserves a mention)

Content ‘Protection’

  • Don’t install Javascript to stop me right clicking – it’s on the web, I can copy it regardless and you’re stopping me opening the site in a new tab

Content sharing & Social-Media

  • Give people tools to share, but stop nagging them: if it’s funny people will share. If they like it they will favourite or subscribe.
  • Don’t call a blog a blog unless you’re engaging with comments. If you’re not going to do that don’t allow comments and call it News
  • Don’t have a twitter account you’re not going to reply to people sending comments to but don’t reply to everyone mentioning something tangentially related to your brand name
  • If you say something stupid: retract & apologise. Don’t start saying “your account was hacked”
  • Don’t #obsessively #hash #tag

Dates & Times

  • Include the day: I know I want to fly out on Sunday and back on Saturday so make that the date 4 months in the future.
  • The web is international, so avoid 11/11/11: it’s perhaps wordy, but “Friday 11/Nov/2011” is unambiguous to english speakers.
  • Make time-zones clear


  • Avoid unless you have to, not just because of iOS users
  • Degrade well without it


  • If you can’t keep it up to date don’t put it up there: sure it’s frustrating that information isn’t visible, but even more so to be told “that’s out of date”

Geo & Mapping

  • Accept partial postcodes or addresses in searches. Users are not always searching from a known address.


  • I care about your opening hours: I care less about your ethics and principles
  • Your address needs to be plaintext so i can copy the postcode into google maps
  • Menus and price lists should just be HTML, and at a minimum a well converted PDF that I can copy from


  • I don’t know what sector I am, I just want to see what laptops you have. Forcing me to choose a sector upfront makes me think I’m only going to see a subset of models. Offer me “extra services for large companies” but I just want to see your products.


  • Have decent search. If I use google to find your content then you’ve failed. (use a google site search if you can’t/don’t want to)


  • If you’re launching a new site is going to get any form of interest, turn the CDN on prior to launching. Have a scaling plan that means you bring up a load of Amazon instances. The cost of turning these on upfront is less than the press coverage that “the new Widget site that launched today fell over”
  • If you’re using WordPress use one of the caching plug-ins


  • Root level domain not working: should work, even it’s a redirect to
  • Avoid ambiguous addresses: but if you have catch and redirect to the correct
  • If you provide a mobile version of your site at, redirect me to the actual page I wanted and not the frontpage again.
  • I shouldn’t ever see the underlying technology in URLs: clean ones look nicer and will give you better SEO, and not